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Buyers return from Cannes empty-handed

Distribs feel few big new titles available for Spanish acquisition

MADRID — Spain has few international champs: cyclist Miguel Indurain, Real Madrid soccer club … and its indie film distribution sector. For the third year running, Spain bought fewer titles than any other major territory.

Of potentially big buyers, Manga didn’t buy anything; Filmax hadn’t closed any deal by the end of the Cannes market; TriPictures only picked up James Bond spoof “Double Zero” from Roissy; Lolafilms took one title, “Old Boy” from Cineclick Asia.

Aurum teamed with new sister company Momentum to take Spain and the U.K. on Summit’s “The Dark” and took Focus’ “Synergy” in a single-territory buy.

Arthouse distribs were hardly more prolific. Alta closed on two Bush-baiting docus — “Uncovered: The War on Iraq” and “Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential” — plus Francois Dupeyron’s “Inguelezi.” Wanda is releasing Dupeyron’s earlier “Monsieur Ibrahim.”

All in all, however, Spain’s sales volume paled compared with pics bought for the U.K., Japan or even Germany. Distribs partly blamed the market at large, complaining that — beyond Initial’s Leo DiCaprio starrer “The Good Shepherd,” helmed by Robert De Niro — there were very few big new titles available for acquisition in Spain.

Spain’s main pain remains TV. Pay TV giant Sogecable isn’t buying indie titles; broadcasters are buying fewer movies and paying less per title.

Exacerbating matters, TV stations’ studio output deals cover most movie slots, consume most broadcasters’ acquisition budgets and encourage indie U.S. producers to put big titles through studios’ overseas output deals — so argues Manga prexy Luis de Val. Fox, for example, will distrib “Aviator” in Spain.

Indie distribution is morphing somewhat. A new niche player, Adolfo Blanco’s ABS Augusta, took “Primer,” “CSA: Confederate States of America” and “Duck Season” at Cannes. DeAPlaneta is angling to buy bigger pics.

Can Spain improve? Distributors hold out several hopes. One, per TriPictures VP Luis Ortiz, is that big pic suppliers will finally lower prices. Spain’s indie distrib lobby is also negotiating for Sogecable to acquire some European films. RTVE had made noises about pursuing a more cultural brief, which may benefit art pic purveyors. Or maybe not.

Until TV definitely opens up, or prices really tumble, Spain could be limbering up for its fourth weakest-territory trophy in a row.

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